Posted by James Wood
I’ve been surrounded by tattoos pretty much my entire life. I’ve seen the tramp stamps and the Dallas Cowboys logos. Met the “Keep on Truckin” man up close. I’ve seen cartoon characters and witnessed wizards and their crystal balls casting spells along shoulder blades and caricatures of marijuana plants on forearms. Yep, if it’s a generic type of tattoo, I’ve probably been exposed to it.
About the only types of tats I’ve never seen up close are the Popeye anchor and the original old school “Mother” one sailors used to obtain after long voyages at sea. Although I’m sure I could still find a few if I searched hard enough on some nursing home tenant’s upper arms.
My uncle even ran a small tattoo business out of his house when I was growing up so it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone on my side of the family, with the exception of me and my mother, has at least one tat on some location of their body. Well, that is of course unless Mom’s been keeping hers a secret. Then it’s just me.
I’ve never gotten a tattoo in my life and haven’t even been in a studio for that matter. I’ve passed by quite a few of them in my travels but never had the urge to go in. Kind of strange since I also consider myself an artist.
Drawing, painting, songwriting – I’ve pretty much run the gambit of art but I’ve never gotten into the whole tattoo thing. Even when my own relatives were lining up at “Uncle Sam’s Southlands Tattoo Shop” up the block I never went. Not even to sit there and chuckle as they writhed in pain. No, I had no interest in even seeing how it was done.
So with all of this skin art surrounding me you may be wondering why I didn’t also partake in the merriment. Perhaps it was all the bad tattoos I’d see or the muddy green color that initially turned me off to them. But the truth is the biggest reason is that I don’t think there’s any type of script or picture that could be tattooed on me that I wouldn’t get tired of seeing on my body at some point.
That cute little Tazmanian Devil tat isn’t something you can just wash off if you grow tired of it. And what I think may be cool at the moment may not be as cool a week, month or year from now. I’m also not about to put something forever on my body by just looking through a book and seeing what strikes my fancy at that particular moment.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that everything changed for me and the real possibility of eventually getting a tattoo entered into my head. I was stumbling through the high-end cable channels and came across a marathon of NY Ink episodes.
NY Ink is a show on TLC which follows the events of a famous tattoo artist, Ami James, as he opens a tattoo studio in New York City. After watching the first few minutes of it I almost immediately became hooked.
The built up drama and confrontations among the staff was over the top at times but I realized they needed that for good television. But I found myself more interested in seeing how the whole tattoo process worked and one of the artists in particular, Megan Massacre.
Here’s how the whole process would play out: A client would come into the studio for an appointment with Megan. After showing her a picture of what kind of tattoo they had in mind Megan would go draw up an incredible rendition of the idea on a stencil, place the template on the selected portion of the body and, after approval, would tattoo it.
I found myself fascinated not only with the whole needle, art and ink concept but also the conversations between Megan and her client. I began to understand that getting a tattoo can have a much deeper meaning then just being cool or wanting a picture of some dude smoking a blunt.
As Megan tattooed her client she would ask the person to tell her why they selected the tattoo. Usually, the person would tell her an interesting story as to why that particular piece was decided upon.
I would listen to stories of heartbreak and redemption as Megan applied color and wiped off excess ink. Some tattoos were of symbols or script gotten in remembrance of a lost relative while others were of dream catchers to symbolize family unity. The stories behind the tattoos were what really hooked me in and Megan’s artwork was incredible.
After watching several episodes and seeing all of the artists do their work I decided that if I ever were to get a tattoo, I would want Megan to do the job. First of all, she’s an incredible artist but she’s also in an occupation that is almost exclusively dominated by men and I’m all about the underdog.
But what tattoo would I get and what would my “story” be?
I like to think that it might be something musical since that’s been my passion. Something with a lot of color it. Blues and reds would be a good starting point. I suppose my story would involve something about my life as a crazy musician.
As I pondered the question as to what I’d consider, the following ideas were quickly rejected:
A photograph: Some people get their children, parents or grandparents faces tattooed on them. No matter how life-like it turns out I don’t think I’d want someone’s face on my chest.
A sports team logo or band name: What if I change teams? What if that team moves and changes their logo? What if the band breaks up? And besides, I’d look awful silly with a Seattle Seahawks or REO Speedwagon tat on my arm. No, what ever it would wind up being would have to have a deeper meaning.
So even after years of having no desire or ever visiting my uncle’s tattoo shop, after seeing Megan’s work I went from a definite “NO” to a “Maybe” as to whether or not I’ll ever get a tattoo.
In the end though, whether or not I do get one, it’s really not what type you get or how many tattoos you have.
It’s how comfortable you are in your own skin.